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Asian Top 15 in 2015 - Part 1
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on my Mind) - As always, basketball was top of mind in 2015 for a lot of sports fans, and there were certainly more than enough highlights from Asian basketball to talk about till after the smoke from fireworks of the new year have cleared. Milestones were set, debuts were made, and stars shone, while, on the other end of things, some expectations were not met and hearts were broken. It was a year of golden moments and moments that are better left in the dustbin of memory.
So now we look back at some of the most compelling FIBA Asia stories that came our way in the past 12 months.
Without further ado, here is the first part of the top fifteen FIBA Asia basketball stories of 2015.
China dominates the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Women's Championship
China’s indomitable girls defended their FIBA Asia U16 Women's Championship in dominant fashion, dealing Japan a 95-72 beating in the Final. Up-and-coming female talents Li Yueru and Zhang Lingge paced the winners with 31 and 19 points respectively. Li also padded her line with 18 rebounds. China will be joined by Japan and third-placer Korea in the 2016 FIBA U17 World Youth Championship Festival in Spain.
Korea wins their first FIBA Asia U16 crown
Korea powered through the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship Final at the expense of erstwhile unbeaten Chinese Taipei for their maiden FIBA Asia U16 title. Korea pulled out all stops and ended their losing streak in the Final of this age group. Korea went down fighting against China in the inaugural edition’s Final in Johor Bahru in 2009 and then two years later once again in Nha Trang. It was also a good bounce back performance from the Koreans, who missed the tournament Semi-Finals for the first time in 2013. Despite the loss, Chinese Taipei also made a huge impact, winning their first eight games en route to their first ever Men’s U16 medal.
Perlas makes history
The Philippines also reached a milestone in their women’s basketball history after their team, Perlas Pilipinas, won over India in their relegation play-off to earn a promotion to Level I play for the first time ever. Afril Bernardino recorded a tournament-high 32 points to lead Perlas Pilipinas to their huge 82-76 win over the Indians. Perlas Pilipinas coach Patrick Aquino deservingly declared afterwards, "We have arrived.” Perlas led 39-37 at halftime, and they scored the first 13 points of the second half — a big run that virtually sealed India’s fate.
Philippines beating China in U16
China had never been beaten in Asian U16 play until the severely undersized Philippine U16 team, named Batang Gilas, pulled off a memorable upset on Day Six of the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship. Using their speed and sharp shooting, the Filipinos coached by Michael Oliver finished the game on an 11-0 blast that all but took the wind out of China’s sails. It was a result that sent shockwaves throughout the rest of the field and paved the way for China’s defeat at the hands of Korea in the Semi-Finals. This edition marked the first time the Chinese weren’t crowned U16 champions.
Ramu Tokashiki reigns supreme
2015 was a big year for Japanese basketball (more on that later), and the country’s best result was pocketing their second straight senior women’s title. They beat hosts China, 85-50, in the Final of the 2015 FIBA Asia Women's Championship in Wuhan to gain their tickets to the 2016 Rio Olympics. The reigning champions were rampant in the first half, storming their way into a commanding 44-22 lead, and they started the third period with a 10-2 scoring assault that put the outcome beyond any uncertainty. Ramu Tokashiki, currently the only Asian in the WNBA, played very well, putting up 18 points and 7 rebounds in the win, which also solidified her being named the tournament MVP. Surely, we can expect more wonderful things from this 1.91m 24-year-old power forward.
Satnam Singh Bhamara in NBA Draft
It’s not every year a talented Asian gets picked in the NBA Draft, and it has certainly never happened before that a homegrown Indian was chosen by a bona fide NBA club. This year, however, will be remembered in the annals of Asian and Indian hoops for it was when 2.17m/7ft 2in Satnam Singh Bhamara of Punjab in northern India was picked by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round. He wasn’t able to make the Mavs’ final roster, but the young slotman who has played for India’s senior team a couple of times is sure to improve at an accelerated rate playing against superior competition in the NBA and its affiliate leagues. Indian basketball, already rising steadily, may yet look to him as a formidable weapon in the near future.
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Early 2015 was relatively bleak for Japanese basketball as it was in a state of uncertainty, but the traditional East Asian powerhouse, after getting the go-signal to play in the continental tournaments, was able to prove that it should still be taken seriously in FIBA Asia hoops. Team Hayabusa impressed in all the tournaments they joined, finishing among every competition’s top four. The Japanese U16 team led by Yudai Nishida finished fourth in the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship, which was also the same result for their men’s team in Changsha-Hunan. The country’s best finishes, of course, were ending up second-place in the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Women’s Championship and eventually defending their crown in the women’s senior level. With all these amazing results, it definitely looks like the Japanese have reclaimed their rightful spot among the forces-to-be-reckoned-with in Asian basketball.
Catch more of 2015’s top basketball stories in Part Two next week.
FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
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